Man, I like to be impressive. It sounds like an obvious thing to say – surely, we all want to impress other people – but I love it. It doesn’t matter what it is I’m actually doing; as long as someone, somewhere, thinks, Wow, she’s great at that, that is my drug. Call me an Amazonian super-powered Goddess, because I think myself Wonder Woman – and I’ll make damn sure that everyone else thinks it too.
Except, I’m not Wonder Woman. I wish I was – having a lasso of truth and the ability to kick ass would be awesome – but I struggle with things a lot. I quickly give up if there’s something I’m not brilliant at. I panic at the smallest things that really don’t matter. I frequently cry when things don’t go my way (or when they do go my way but I haven’t noticed, or when I’m really sleepy, or stressed, or before, on and after my period…I’m just a frequent crier really). But why am I telling you this? Why would I, someone who wants to be seen as capable and tough and impressive, admit to any level of less-than-Wonder-Woman-ness? Because we don’t know the impact we have when we pretend we can do it all.
I’ve mentioned before that having a puppy has been no walk in the park, but there was one day in particular when I really struggled. James was on a church rota he couldn’t get out of, so it fell to me to stay at home with Ralph. It was the first time I’d be looking after him by myself, and within five minutes it was not going well. Ralph began jumping and biting and I just crumbled and thought, I can’t do this. I had to do it. James had to go out. But I was a mess of tears and self-doubt while this fluffy ball with very sharp teeth continued to growl and nip and jump at me.
James suggested calling his sister Hannah, who’s great with dogs, and I immediately said no. I couldn’t do it by myself, but I didn’t want to have to admit that to anyone – particularly when that someone was great at the thing I was struggling with. I didn’t want her to come over and see me with a raging case of Cry-Face. I didn’t want to admit I was failing. But James had to go, there was no other option, and I convinced myself that I could probably get it together and reduce the puffiness around my eyes by the time Hannah arrived.
I did not have it together. Hannah walked in, said, “How are you?” and, before I could shrug off the morning’s events, I dissolved into a pile of tears. And Hannah was awesome. She put her arm around me, and began telling me about the time she’d been watching her aunt’s puppy by herself. The puppy had been biting (just like this), not listening to her (just like this), and she ended up crying and not knowing what to do (Just. Like. This.) Hannah, who is amazing with dogs, had been where I was. Hannah, who I was embarrassed to admit my weakness to, said, “Yep, same here.”
And it was like a weight had been lifted.
We live in a world that demands a lot of things from us, particularly if you’re female. You’re supposed to be Wonder Woman. You’re meant to “have it all”. So we try to have the perfect marriage and children (or puppy), while bossing it at work, keeping our houses immaculate, conforming to unrealistic standards of beauty and body shape and, if you’re a Christian, also finding time for serving and reading the bible and praying and “making time for God”. You know, with all that free time you have.
And we do it, or we give the appearance of doing it, because that’s the base line for female achievement and anything less than that makes you a failure. And also, you’re a woman so you kind of represent all women, and if you fail then you’re no role model for future generations of strong, impressive females (#guiltyfeminism). And isn’t that the point of feminism anyway, that a woman can do everything now so she definitely has to? I mean, if you’re anything short of Oprah Winfrey then you might as well be Donald Trump for all the good you’re doing for the cause.
And then we make every woman scrolling through our Instagram feed feel like she’s the only one failing. We post a photo of our yoga mat, and she feels guilty for never doing any exercise. We post about our great day in the office, and she’s then the only one who isn’t confident in her job. We share about our perfect lives, and she’s the only one who feels like everyone else is so impressive and she just keeps getting it wrong. Because that’s the problem with pretending to be Wonder Woman; you might actually trick people into believing it.
But what happens if we take off the gold tiara and admit we’re not Wonder Woman? We give other people permission to not be Wonder Woman either. We say, “You’re doing fine, just as you are.” We say, “You’re not alone in this.” We say, “Yep, same here. Me too. We can get through it together.” Not only do we release ourselves from the pressure of perfection, we also unlock that freedom in other people.
So that’s what we need to take from Wonder Woman as a role model – not that we can do everything, not that we are perfectly impressive, but that we need to use a lasso of truth. We need to open up about our struggles and failures. We need to come together and admit when we’re a little bit rubbish at life. We need to confess to those times when we didn’t win the fight, when we didn’t kick ass, but we fell down and well and truly got our asses kicked. “Having it all” and being impressive isn’t the answer, and it certainly isn’t a feminist act; being vulnerable and showing off our imperfections is.
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, Deputy Editor, Liberti